MN Native News: Mni Ki Wakan Water Summit
MN Native News: Mni Ki Wakan Water Summit
Minn. Native News: Mni Ki Wakan Water Summit
MARIE: “This week on Minnesota Native News, we visit the Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit, held in St. Paul, and hear how it brings indigenous peoples from across the globe together to talk about the importance of water, and collectively think of its future. Here’s reporter Cole Premo.”
MNI KI WAKAN
[Audio of Hawaiian song]
It’s a sunny August day in St. Paul and I’m here at the Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit. What you’re hearing is a song from Hawaii’s indigenous people. It’s about the system of water, and how it sustains the Hawaii people until it goes back up to heaven and back down again as a gift.
It’s just one of the summit’s many presentations. The summit, which will span for 10 years -- this is its second year -- features indigenous voices from across the globe.
I sat down with one of the leading organizers, Wakinyan LaPointe, for more on the summit.
WAKINYAN: “‘Mni Ki Wakan’ means water is sacred.”
I sat down with one of the summit’s leading organizers, Wakinyan LaPointe, who has done work in the Twin Cities Native American community for many years. He talked more on the summit.
WAKINYAN: “Of the world 7,000 languages, 5,000 are indigenous peoples languages, that 80 percent of the world's richest in biodiversity rest on indigenous peoples land. That outside of Antarctica, one fourth of the world's land is owned and managed by indigenous peoples. So there's a greater world story here that isn’t being told.”
Wakinyan, who is Lakota Sioux, says the whole idea for the summit began intimately at Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis.
WAKINYAN: “We started 10 years ago with the Mde Maka Ska canoe nations gathering where each year 300 to 400 indigenous youth will paddle this sacred body of water here in the twin cities. And they would interact with this water and reconnect with that relationship which could inform greater and greater understanding in the broader community across sectors.”
The tradition still carries on as part of the pre-summit events.
The idea widened since those times and it’s now an international water summit. This year is the second year of an ambitious 10-year summit. Plans are in the works for other locations outside of the US, too.
WAKINYAN: “This water summit will be mobile and it will be hosted by other indigenous peoples in their respective regions and we already got commitments from first nations and we're working on commandments from Asia as well as New Zealand and proposing these ideas and we are in conversation with them on this.”
Since water issues are global, it’s increasingly clear that indigenous cultures from around the world need to have dialogue with one another.
WAKINYAN: “Oftentimes, the indigenous peoples haven't had chance to interact with each other on a more intimate level and so the Mni Ki Wakan water summit provides a process to actually explore what are our plans of actions as indigenous peoples for the long-term.”
I attended part of a session where attendees collectively discussed plans of action on protecting water, and insuring its future is clean and healthy.
There were people from everywhere, Hawaii, Guam, New Zealand, Canada, the subartic region, the USA, and other places.
WAKINYAN:“We have these basic sheets of paper where every person, every indigenous person, youth and ally can contribute to that question about what you see for the future of water. What kind of transformative possibilities need to exist that do not at present currently exist? And how would you write that down? How would you design that?”
The Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples Decade of Water Summit also featured powerful keynote addresses, including the speech from 13-year-old Autumn Peltier. She;s an anishinabe from Ontario, Canada and recently addressed the United Nations in New York, advocating for water.
Here’s part of her speech at August’s Water Summit:
AUTUMN: “One day I’ll be an ancestor, what will my great grandchildren say about me? Will they say I was a good teacher, I was a good cook, or will they be able to say that I was so caring and nurturing? I want them to know I went down fighting for their future. I’ll keep fighting for my grandchildren and make sure they have a healthy planet. They deserve that. And I know I’m only 13, but one of these days, the work I’m doing will mold and shape their future.”
Autumn highlights one of the summit’s main missions, which is the rights-to-nature movement.
WAKINYAN:“We have delegations here like the Mari delegation of whose members had helped work on recognizing the personhood of their sacred river way. We explore that rights to nature movement as a great approach and one of the greatest plans that the broader world community can get behind.”’
The movement isn’t easy going, however.
WAKINYAN: “It takes a lot of work and oftentimes that kind of work is blocked by state actors, private actors forces that work against indigenous peoples rights. So it's hard to convene on a global level. So we're going against a lot of forces and we're overcoming those and coming together each year and, uh, being able to think creatively and upstream in this confluence of knowledge and wisdom.”
The summit ends with a two-day celebration of those who made the journey. Festivities include canoe nations exhibitions and demonstrations.
WAKINYAN: “we want to close with that piece where the broader community here and they showed the and here in this nation can be a part of that and come and welcome them and see them off in a good way.”
Meanwhile, Wakinyan urges people to get involved and help protect the future of water.
WAKINYAN: “We do this as a tiwahe, as a family, and our experience comes from interacting with our relatives from the broader community. So we really want your contributions or whatever that may be. We appreciate your input.”
More info can be found on Mni Ki Wakan.org. That’s M-n-i-K-i-W-a-k-a-n-dot-org. You can also find it on Facebook.
I’m Cole Premo.
“This week on Minnesota Native News, we visit the Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit, held in St. Paul, and hear how it brings indigenous peoples from across the globe together to talk about the importance of water, and collectively think of its future. Here’s reporter Cole Premo.”